IBFF 2015 BAY AREA Full Schedule

[logo for International Buddhist Film Festival 2015 Bay Area above April 10-16 co-presented by Buddhist Film Foundation and California Film Institute on an orange patterned background with center white glow]Celebrating its 15th year, Buddhist Film Foundation is co-presenting with California Film Institute fifteen new films from ten countries, each with a wonderful story to tell—great world cinema with a Buddhist touch.

Click the image at right to download a PDF of the program guide.


For venue, ticket information and online ticket purchase, please visit Smith Rafael Film Center. Tickets can also be purchased at the SRFC box office Monday–Thursday: 6:00–9:00 pm, Friday: 4:00–9:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday: 2:00–9:00 pm; 415.454.1222 info-line for showtimes, 415.454.5813 main office.


Premieres of dramatic features from Bhutan, Holland, and Thailand, along with documentaries from Canada, Korea, China, Finland, Ireland, Myanmar, Holland, and the US, present an extraordinary diversity of Buddhist cultures, traditions, personalities and practices today. A very special program of new short works from Myanmar suggests a vibrant cinema community in the making, and the On Meditation shorts screening throughout the festival offer an intimate look at the place of practice in everyday life with some very special individuals.

Two interesting strands emerged in the programming:

Buddhism in America (BIA)
There have always been multiple approaches in the Buddhist arena, and everything continues to change. IBFF 2015 presents a number of films that touch on Buddhism in the west and particularly in America today.
American Rimpoche
Dharma Rising
Even Though the Whole World Is Burning
Giving Life to Life
Khandro: A Woman’s Path of Peace
On Meditation
Painting Peace
Why Not Now? With Alan Watts

Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation (BOS)
BOS is the ­independent Buddhist broadcasting unit of the Public Broadcasting System of The Netherlands. IBFF has worked with BOS on programming through the years and we are delighted to include four films in this festival that were produced and broadcast by BOS.
Giving Life to Life
Khandro: A Woman’s Path of Peace
Painting Peace

And filmmakers from China, Holland, Finland, and across the US will be on hand to introduce and discuss their films. Other special guests include poet Jane Hirshfield, filmmaker Ellen Bruno, and dharma teacher/musician/author extraordinaire Wes Nisker. Several filmmakers will participate via Skype for live Q&A.


Even Though the Whole World Is Burning  BIA
Directed by Stefan Schaefer
USA / 2014 / English / 85 min / Documentary
Friday, April 10, 7:00 pm
In Person: special guest Jane Hirshfield

[blue shirted, white haired older man sitting amidst green tropical foliage speaks to camera while gesturing]US Poet Laureate, long term Buddhist and deep ecologist W.S. Merwin is one of America’s truly great poets and translators, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, with over fifty books published. His life and legacy also include his now over three decade effort to regenerate native plants and palms on a former pineapple plantation on the north shore of the island of Maui in Hawaii. This is an intimate and beautifully filmed portrait of one of our national treasures.

Dharma Rising  BIA
Directed by David Cherniack
Canada / 2014 / English / 84 min / Documentary
Saturday, April 11, 1:00 pm
Live via Skype: Director David Cherniack

[smiling woman with short white hair stands in front of low wall and looks to camera]Director David Cherniack (Heart of Tibet, Retreat), has taken on the subject of Buddhism in the West, with penetrating filming on location in the US and Europe. An international road trip of sorts featuring Alan Wallace, Bernie Glassman, Jack Kornfield, Matthieu Ricard, Jan Willis, Norman Fischer, Robert Thurman, Stephen Batchelor, Blanche Hartman, Mel Weitsman and others.

A Gesar Bard’s Tale
Directed by Donagh Coleman and Lharigtso
Finland, Ireland / 2014 / Tibetan and Mandarin with English subtitles / 83 min / Documentary
Saturday, April 11, 3:30 pm
In Person: Director Donagh Coleman

[Tibetan illustration of red figure on red horse with swirling blue and gold, against a background of white clouds]The Tibetan tale of King Gesar, the world’s longest epic, has been passed on orally, generation to generation since at least the 12th century, by reciters known as Gesar bards. Dawa was an illiterate nomad when at age thirteen his life changed through the experience of a series of visions resulting in the gift of telling the Gesar story. He is supported by the government as a guardian of a national cultural heritage, but nothing can protect him from the devastating earthquake that reduces his home town to rubble except perhaps his gift.


Painting Peace  BIA / BOS
Directed by Babeth VanLoo
Netherlands / 2014 / English, and Japanese with English ­subtitles / 90 min / Documentary
Saturday, April 11, 6:00 pm In Person: Director Babeth VanLoo, Cinematographer Ashley James

[close-up of white bearded Asian man against a dark background looking to camera with enormous white haired paint brush left of his head]Eighty-year-old Berkeley-based Kazuaki Tanahashi is a Japanese Zen teacher, translator, artist and activist, known as much for his extraordinary calligraphy works as well as for his masterful translations of the 13th century Zen innovator, Dogen. His activism for peace/demilitarization and a plutonium-free environment regularly takes him around the world. This film travels with him to Europe and Japan and into his home and family with insight and understanding.

Directed by He Shiping, Fu Peng, and Zhou Chengyu
China / 2014 / English, and Chinese with English subtitles / 91 min / Documentary
Saturday, April 11, 8:30 pm
In Person: Director Zhou Chengyu

[dark haired man with mustache and goatee, wearing a grey cape, sitting with eyes closed, against a tree capped mountainous background]Twenty five years ago, noted American translator Bill Porter journeyed among the Daoist and Buddhist hermit monks and nuns practicing in caves and huts in the Zhongnan Mountains of China (some of whom we met in Amongst White Clouds…) and wrote the classic Road to Heaven about them. This beautifully shot new film follows him on his recent return—a total immersion in a hidden world, with insightful conversations with the hermits. Encouraging words, intimate and inspiring; imagine the Sierra dotted with solitary meditators!

Bardsongs  BOS
Directed by Sander Francken
Netherlands / 2010 / English / 94 min / Drama
Sunday, April 12, 12:30 pm
Live via Skype: Director Sander Franken

[sitting group of young man and woman with older man and woman in festive wear]In the tradition of the classic Latcho Drom, this is a joyous music-based film for all ages, beautifully photographed and recorded: three universal folk tales from different cultures put to music by ­musical celebrities from those regions and interpreted by local actors who grew up with these tales. The film revels in the similarities among totally different worlds. Filmed on location in Rajasthan, Mali and Ladakh.


American Rimpoche  BIA
Directed by Nikki Appino
USA / 2014 / English / 60 min / Documentary
Sunday, April 12, 2:30 pm
In Person: Director Nikki Appino

[very young monk with shaved head stands at table with cups]Gelek Rimpoche was born in Tibet, trained as a monk and was forced into exile at an early age. He has lived an extraordinary life, now as an American citizen, no longer a monk but a Buddhist teacher and scholar linking the traditional and contemporary for a new generation. His students have included Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass, who composed the music for this incisive film.


Khandro: A Woman’s Path of Peace   BIA / BOS
Directed by Babeth VanLoo
Netherlands / 2014 / English / 60 min / Documentary
Sunday, April 12, 2:30 pm
In Person: Director Babeth VanLoo

[two smiling women, one with shaved head, sit side by side on a stone wall with mountainous landscape behind them]Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche is the eldest daughter of Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen Gyurme Künzang Wangyal, an important Tibetan teacher in the Nyingma school, and is the latest in a unique lineage of female masters known as the Jetsünma line. She teaches all over the world and has her North American base in Virginia. Director Babeth VanLoo (Meredith Monk: Inner Voice, Painting Peace) creates an inspiring portrait of this remarkable woman and her American students.

Giving Life to Life  BIA / BOS
Directed by Patrick van Boeckel
Netherlands / 2014 / English, and Dutch with English subtitles / 75 min / Documentary
Sunday, April 12, 6:00 pm

[sunlit salt and pepper haired woman in dark shirt and round wire-rimmed glasses looks to camera with shadowed background]Zen teacher, activist, anthropologist and author Joan Halifax has come to exemplify many of the developments in Buddhism in America. She is the founder of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, her base from which she travels extensively on teaching and humanitarian trips around the world, and she is a leader in working with people in the final phase of life. Filmed on location in New Mexico, Holland, Nepal and Germany.

Why Not Now? With Alan Watts  BIA
Directed by Mark Watts
USA / 2015 / English / 75 min /Documentary
Sunday, April 12, 8:00 pm
In Person: Director Mark Watts

[cartoon of gesturing blue-shirted man with black mustache and goatee, black beads, and blue shirt, against a gold background]Alan Watts needs no introduction here; his work and spirit are still felt in the Bay Area where he made his home for the last twenty-three years of his life. Known for his seminal books on Zen Buddhism, he was also a observant participant in the psychedelia and psychology explorations of the 60s; he even had a television show on KQED and a radio show on KFPA. His son Mark Watts has fashioned a unique profile of his father. Screened with The Animated Alan Watts: shorts from Matt Stone and Trey Parker (South Park), and excerpts from The Fine Art of Goofing Off.


On the Road
Directed by Lee Chang-jae
Korea / 2013 / Korean with English subtitles / 104 min / Documentary
Monday, April 13, 7:00 pm
Live via Skype: Director Lee Chang-jae

[Asian woman in grey robes and wide brimmed straw hat holds white shoulder straps while walking along a dirt road with autumn colored trees and two smaller figures in background]Beautifully filmed over a year on location in and around Backheung-am, a thousand year old rural Korean Buddhist nunnery, On the Road is a rare and revealing study of monastic life today. Just before her ordainment, one of the novices journeys along with more senior nuns through delightful Korean country landscapes and engages with a range of local characters, all with humor and insight. Fiercely dedicated, passionate, hard working yet prone to mirth, these nuns are sustaining a tradition of obvious vitality.

Directed by Zuri Rinpoche
Bhutan / 2014 / Dzongkha with English subtitles / 85 min / Drama
Tuesday, April 14, 7:00 pm

[two dark silhouetted figures stand against a deeply lit sky at sunset]This vibrant dramatic feature was filmed on location in remote Bhutan and tells the story of a tertön (one who discovers hidden teachings) in Bhutan, from birth to discovery to surprise. A senior monk makes a connection with a young girl from Thimpu and together they go on a journey of searching and challenge.


Myanmar: New Voices/New Visions
Robe directed by Shin Daewe
A Young Monk’s Dream directed by Zon Sapal Phyu
On Holiday directed by Shin Daewe
Share directed by Mya Darli Aung
An ­Untitled Life directed by Shin Daewe
Falling ­Blossoms directed by Su Su Thaing Win
Myanmar / 2014 / Burmese with English subtitles / 75 min / Documentary
Wednesday, April 15, 7:00 pm
In Person: BFF Board Member Ellen Bruno and Myanmar native Kenneth Wong, author and commentator

[man in white sleeveless shirt and rolled-up blue pants, holds a green bucket while walking up stone steps with white stone statues on either side, against a grey clouded sky]Emerging from decades of repression from an authoritarian military regime, Myanmar (Burma) is bursting with new possibilities, new creativity. Noted ­filmmaker Ellen Bruno (Satya, Sacrifice, Sky Burial) recently spent time with young filmmakers there and presents a program of compelling short works that offer a sense of the vitality and perseverance of the people, and the potential of a new and self-aware Myanmar cinema.

A portion of ticket proceeds will benefit the Yangon Film School in Myanmar.

The Three Marks of Existence
Directed by Gunparwitt Phuwadolwisid
Thailand / 2012 / English, and Thai with English subtitles / 114 min / Comedy
Thursday, April 16, 7:00 pm
Live via Skype: Director Gunparwitt Phuwadolwisid
In Person: Wes Nisker, dharma teacher/author/performer

[dark haired Asian man in white t-shirt and dark jacket hold a letter and gazes out with multi-colored, ribbon-like background]Humor and light-hearted charm join teachings in this find from IBFF 2012 BANGKOK. A young Thai man, M, goes on the classic Buddhist pilgrimage tour in India: Lumbini, the Buddha’s birthplace; Bodh Gaya, where Buddha gained his awakening; Sarnath, the site of the first teachings; and Kushinagar, where the Buddha died. As any good road movie requires, M meets interesting people along the way, and slowly begins to understand the secret of pilgrimage. But beginner’s mind is a wild and beautiful thing… Filmed on location in Thailand and India.


On Meditation  BIA
Directed by Rebecca Dreyfus
USA / 2014 / English / Documentary
Episodes screening with selected programs throughout IBFF 2015 Bay Area

[older man with weathered skin smiles to camera with light diffused background to the left]Director Rebecca Dreyfus has assembled a series of wonderful, short, intimate portraits of people who have integrated meditation into their lives. Featuring Peter Matthiessen, Mark Epstein and Arlene Shechet, Giancarlo Esposito, Sharon Salzberg, Congressman Tim Ryan, David Lynch, Venerable Mettayya, and others.